Iowa General Assembly

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Iowa General Assembly

Seal of Iowa.jpg
General Information
Type:   State legislature
Term limits:   None
2015 session start:   January 12, 2015
Website:   Official Legislature Page
Senate President:   Pam Jochum (D)
House Speaker:  Kraig Paulsen (R)
Majority Leader:   Michael Gronstal (D) (Senate),
Linda Upmeyer (R) (House)
Minority Leader:   Bill Dix (R) (Senate),
Mark Smith (D) (House)
Members:  50 (Senate), 100 (House)
Length of term:   4 years (Senate), 2 years (House)
Authority:   Legislative Department, Iowa Constitution, Sec 3
Salary:   $25,000/year + per diem
Last Election:  November 4, 2014
25 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Next election:  November 8, 2016
25 seats (Senate)
100 seats (House)
Redistricting:  Iowa Board of Apportionment
The Iowa General Assembly (or IGA) is the state legislature of Iowa. The General Assembly convenes within the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines. It is a bicameral legislature composed of an upper house, the Iowa State Senate, and a lower house, the Iowa House of Representatives.
Iowa State Capitol

Prior to the 2006 election, Iowa had one of the most evenly divided state legislatures in the country, with a 25-25 split in the Senate and the House composed of 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats. Following the 2010 election, Republicans took control of the House by a margin of 58-42, while Democrats hung onto the Senate 27-23.

As of April 2015, Iowa is one of 19 states that is under divided government and is therefore not one of the state government trifectas.

See also: Iowa House of Representatives, Iowa State Senate, Iowa Governor


The Legislative Department of the Iowa Constitution establishes when the General Assembly is to be in session. Section 2 of the article states that the General Assembly is to convene its regular session on the second Monday of January of each year. The General Assembly can also be called into special session by a proclamation of the Governor of Iowa or by a written request of two-thirds of both houses of the General Assembly.

Bills may be pre-filed for the senate between odd year and even year sessions.[1]


See also: Dates of 2015 state legislative sessions

In 2015, the Legislature is in session from January 12 through May 1.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2015 legislative session include road funding, state budget, income tax cuts, broadband expansion, school calendars, local option sales taxes, medical marijuana, eminent domain, banning traffic cameras and a sales tax increase.[2]


See also: Dates of 2014 state legislative sessions

In 2014, the Legislature was in session from January 13 through May 2.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2014 legislative session included cutting the state income tax, increasing the gas tax and a minimum wage increase.[3]


See also: Dates of 2013 state legislative sessions

In 2013, the Legislature was in session from January 14 to May 23.

Major issues

Major issues during the 2013 legislative session included education reform, providing healthcare for low-income and other uninsured residents, and a tax relief package that sought to lower property taxes.[4]


See also: Dates of 2012 state legislative sessions

In 2012, the General Assembly was in session from January 9 to May 9.


See also: Dates of 2011 state legislative sessions

In 2011, the General Assembly was in session from January 10 through July 1. The legislature was in an extended session due to concerns on how to reduce commercial property taxes. House Republicans favored a 25 per cent reduction in commercial property tax rates, while Senate Democrats proposed a tax credit that would be paid directly to the owners of the commercial properties.[5] During the extended session, legislators did not receive per diem. Iowa legislative rules allow lawmakers to receive per diem for a maximum of 100 days in even numbered years, and 110 days in odd numbered years. The 110th calendar day of the 2011 session was April 30. The rules may be amended at any time to extend the legislative session.

Session highlights


Iowa ended its 2011 fiscal year with $54.5 million in revenue collections above estimated figures, an increase of 6 percent over fiscal 2010. The 6 percent increase was one percent higher than expected.[6]

As a whole, Iowa collected $329.3 million more in revenue than it did last year. Last year's overall total revenue is still not yet known, due to the continuing flow of expenses or revenue collections that can be attributed to fiscal year 2010. To account for this, the books will remain open until September, as is customary for the state.[6]

School funding

A brief tussle over state spending on public schools ended in compromise, with Democrats agreeing to a Republican-proposed 2 percent increase in spending (equivalent to about $60 million) for FY 2012. The Senate approved the plan by a vote of 26-19 and the House by 56-39. Though Democrats had originally asked for a 3 percent overall increase in funding, they secured an extra $24 million for preschool programs in exchange for their support for the Republican plan.[7]

No property tax reform

Lawmakers failed to agree on reforms to the state's property tax system. House Republicans called for across-the-board property tax cuts, while Democrats sought to limit tax concessions to small businesses. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal said the Republican plan "favored tax breaks for giant corporations."[7] Republicans countered that "all property taxpayers in the state of Iowa deserve relief."

Iowa collects commercial property taxes based on 100 percent of a property's assessed value, a considerably higher level than in neighboring states; in Missouri, for instance, taxes are only calculated based on 33.3% of a property's value.


See also: Dates of 2010 state legislative sessions

In 2010, the General Assembly was in session from January 11th to March 30th.

Role in state budget

See also: Iowa state budget and finances
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The state operates on an annual budget cycle. The sequence of key events in the budget process is as follows:[8][9]

  1. Budget instruction guidelines are sent to state agencies in June or July.
  2. Agency requests are submitted to the governor by October 1.
  3. Agency hearings are held in November and December.
  4. Public hearings are held in December.
  5. The governor submits his or her proposed budget to the Iowa State Legislature by February 1.
  6. The legislature adopts a budget in April or May.
  7. The fiscal year begins in July.

Iowa is one of 44 states in which the governor has line item veto authority.[9]

The governor is constitutionally and statutorily required to submit a balanced budget. In turn, the legislature is statutorily required to adopt a balanced budget.[9]

Cost-benefit analyses

See also: Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative Cost-Benefit Study
Map showing results of the Pew-MacArthur cost-benefit study.

The Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative released a report in July 2013 indicating that cost-benefit analysis in policymaking led to more effective uses of public funds. Looking at data from 2008 through 2011, the study's authors found that some states were more likely to use cost-benefit analysis, while others were facing challenges and lagging behind the rest of the nation. The challenges states faced included a lack of time, money and technical skills needed to conduct comprehensive cost-benefit analyses. Iowa was one of 29 states with mixed results regarding the frequency and effectiveness in its use of cost-benefit analysis.[10]

Ethics and transparency

Following the Money report

See also: "Following the Money" report, 2014

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group, a consumer-focused nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released its annual report on state transparency websites in April 2014. The report, entitled "Following the Money," measured how transparent and accountable state websites are with regard to state government spending.[11] According to the report, Iowa received a grade of A- and a numerical score of 90, indicating that Iowa was "leading" in terms of transparency regarding state spending.[11]

Open States Transparency

See also: Open States' Legislative Data Report Card

The Sunlight Foundation released an "Open Legislative Data Report Card" in March 2013. Iowa was given a grade of C in the report. The report card evaluated how adequate, complete and accessible legislative data was to the general public. A total of 10 states received an A: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Kansas, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington.[12]



See also: Comparison of state legislative salaries

As of 2013, members of the Iowa legislature are paid $25,000/year. Additionally, legislators receive $135/day per diem tied to the federal rate. Polk County legislators receive $101.25/day.[13]

When sworn in

See also: When state legislators assume office after a general election

Iowa legislators assume office the first day of January after their election.


See also: Redistricting in Iowa

The Iowa Legislative Service Agency is responsible for the redistricting process in Iowa. This entity is not a special commission or committee of legislators, but a nonpartisan entity established before the 1981 redistricting process that divides the state into districts based on key geographic principles, including population, contiguity, respect for political subdivisions, and compactness.[14] The plan must be passed by the legislature and the governor before it becomes law.

2010 Census

Iowa's population grew 4.1 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Iowa's population was 2.93 million in 2000, and rose to 3.05 million in 2010. This rate was less than half of the national growth rate of roughly 10 percent between 2000 and 2010.[15] Due to this slow growth, the U.S. Census Bureau determined that Iowa would only be represented by four members of the U.S. House of Representatives, rather than the five seats Iowa had during the 2000-2010 decade.[16] Most of Iowa's growth occurred in the urban and suburban areas of the state, while most of the rural counties grew slowly or lost population.[17]

On March 31, 2011, the Iowa Legislative Service Agency released its first map. This map paired two incumbent Republicans together in one U.S. House district and two incumbent Democrats together in another U.S. House district. The map also created 7 potential incumbent versus incumbent matchups in the State Senate elections as well as seven districts without incumbents. The State House map created 14 vacant districts and 14 more potential incumbent versus incumbent races.[18]

The Iowa State Senate passed the plan 48 to 1. The House of Representatives approved the plan 90 to 7. Legislators remarked that, although not everyone was happy with the plan, it was fairly drawn.[19]


The Iowa Senate is the upper house of the Iowa General Assembly. There are 50 members of the Senate, representing fifty single-member districts across the state. Each member represents an average of 60,927 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[20] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 58,586.[21] The Senate meets at the Iowa State Capitol in Des Moines.

Unlike the lower house, the Iowa House of Representatives, Senators serve four-year terms and half of the chamber is up for re-election every two years. There are no term limits.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 26
     Republican Party 24
Total 50

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Iowa State Senate from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Iowa State Senate.PNG

House of Representatives

The Iowa House of Representatives is the lower house of the Iowa General Assembly. There are 100 members of the House of Representatives. Each member represents an average of 30,464 residents, as of the 2010 Census.[22] After the 2000 Census, each member represented 29,293.[23]

Unlike the upper house, the Iowa Senate, state representatives serve two-year terms with the whole chamber up for re-election in even-numbered years. There are no term limits.

Party As of April 2015
     Democratic Party 43
     Republican Party 57
Total 100

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Iowa State House of Representatives from 1992-2013.
Partisan composition of the Iowa State House.PNG


Partisan balance 1992-2013

Who Runs the States Project
See also: Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States and Ballotpedia:Who Runs the States, Iowa
Partisan breakdown of the Iowa legislature from 1992-2013

Iowa State Senate: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Iowa State Senate for 12 years while the Republicans were the majority for 8 years. During the final seven years, the senate was controlled by the Democrats.

Across the country, there were 541 Democratic and 517 Republican state senates from 1992 to 2013.

Iowa State House of Representatives: From 1992-2013, the Democratic Party was the majority in the Iowa State House of Representatives for five years while the Republicans were the majority for 17 years.

Across the country, there were 577 Democratic and 483 Republican State Houses of Representatives from 1992 to 2013.

Over the course of the 22-year study, state governments became increasingly more partisan. At the outset of the study period (1992), 18 of the 49 states with partisan legislatures had single-party trifectas and 31 states had divided governments. In 2013, only 13 states had divided governments, while single-party trifectas held sway in 36 states, the most in the 22 years studied.

The chart below shows the partisan composition of the Office of the Governor of Iowa, the Iowa State Senate and the Iowa House of Representatives from 1992-2013. Partisan composition of Iowa state government(1992-2013).PNG

SQLI and partisanship

To read the full report on the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI) in PDF form, click here.

The chart below depicts the partisanship of the Iowa state government and the state's SQLI ranking for the years studied. For the SQLI, the states were ranked from 1-50, with 1 being the best and 50 the worst. Iowa enjoyed a nine-year period in the top-10 of the SQLI ranking between 2003 and 2012, under both divided government and a Democratic trifecta. During the period of the study, Iowa was in the top-10 of the SQLI ranking for twelve out of twenty years. Iowa claimed the top spot in the SQLI ranking twice, once in 2009 and again in 2012. The state’s lowest SQLI ranking came in 1995 (14th) under divided government.

  • SQLI average with Democratic trifecta: 3.50
  • SQLI average with Republican trifecta: 12.00
  • SQLI average with divided government: 8.87
Chart displaying the partisanship of Iowa government from 1992-2013 and the State Quality of Life Index (SQLI).

Joint committees

See also: Public policy in Iowa

See also

External links


  1. Senate Rule 27 and House Rule 29
  2. Des Moines Register, "10 key issues facing Iowa Legislature in 2015," January 12, 2015
  3., "The Iowa 2014 Legislative Session: A Preview," January 13, 2014
  4., "Breaking News: Iowa Legislature could adjourn 2013 session Wednesday; progress made on key issues," May 21, 2013
  5. RadioIowa, Property tax reduction still holding up close of legislature, June 15, 2011
  6. 6.0 6.1, Iowa ends fiscal year with better-than-expected revenues, July 14, 2011
  7. 7.0 7.1, "Iowa lawmakers agree on local school funding," June 29, 2011 (dead link)
  8. National Conference of State Legislatures, "State Experiences with Annual and Biennial Budgeting," updated April 2011
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 National Association of State Budget Officers "Budget Processes in the States, Summer 2008," accessed February 21, 2014
  10. Pew Charitable Trusts, "States’ Use of Cost-Benefit Analysis," July 29, 2013
  11. 11.0 11.1 U.S. Public Interest Research Group, "Following the Money 2014 Report," accessed April 15, 2014
  12. Sunlight Foundation, "Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information," accessed June 16, 2013
  13., "2012 State Legislator Compensation and Per Diem Table," accessed March 18, 2013
  14. The Legislative Lawyer, "A Nonpartisan Approach to Redistricting," 2002
  15. U.S> Census Bureau, "2010 Census: Iowa Profile," 2011
  16. Des Moines Register, "Iowa loses U.S. House seat in shift from Midwest, Northeast to South," December 21, 2010
  17. Radio Iowa, "Detailed 2010 Census data for Iowa released," February 10, 2011
  18. The Iowa Independent, "Proposed redistricting plan brings minor legislative shifts," March 31, 2011
  19. Reuters, "Iowa legislature approves redistricting plan," April 14, 2011
  20., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  21. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001
  22., "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010," accessed May 15, 2014
  23. U.S. Census Bureau, "States Ranked by Population: 2000," April 2, 2001